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Should have? Would have? Could have?
Language and its effects.
“Should have, would have, could have?!” I heard this term as an admonishment as a child/teen/young person from my mom when I didn’t follow through or was out of integrity. It was usually accompanied by a certain look involved pursed lips and cut eyes that struck fear in my marrow. The combination made me feel like a failure, as though there was something intrinsically wrong with me. Words mean things.
As I got older, I heard it used regarding adults, particularly those who continued to talk about what they would or wanted to do, but never rarely followed through. I eventually used it myself as a form of judgment and condemnation. Shaking my head in disdain at “all of the words and none of the actions.” However, as I embarked upon the long and arduous journey of my own inner work that started as an exploration of shame, hurt, and grief(s), I saw that this language, and a lot of the language we use towards ourselves and one another only reinforces concepts that leave us vacant, seeking, and feeling as if we lack value.
Plot twist: we all, in all of our forms and abilities are valuable, worthy, and needed.
This recently reappeared when someone I follow on Instagram posted about THE SHOULDS. They were lamenting about what they should do as abased on one of those pesky meme lists that rears its head every few days — should. The word should is limiting. It puts you in a space and regulates your creativity and output. Everything ain’t for everybody so why should you? Should also triggers anxiety. If you should be doing something, but you aren’t, what type of person does that make you? Are you lazy? A procrastinator? Dumb? No.
As I, and many others, have said before, language is important. I re-shared that post and wrote that maybe we need to turn should into could. Could opens up possibilities and gives you options. It empowers you because it gives you a choice and with choices come consequences, which are just results. Thinking about the possible consequences can spur folks to right action and what’s best for you. Could is expansive and generative. Should is restrictive.
If we are to build a more loving and affirming world for all, the language that use is an important component to our liberation.
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